Do you regularly make your clients and prospects laugh? On purpose, I mean. There’s good reason to spill humor all over your consulting firm’s work.
My team’s extensive, proprietary research among consulting firm leaders suggests you’ve been hilarious. Not recently, of course, but before you led a consulting firm. Or, perhaps, before you had teenagers.
Well, bring the fun back, Jack!
Making consulting playful is good for your health, as proven by the fact that “consulting” can be rearranged to spell “lung” and “tonsil.” *
Funny Firms Win More Clients, Better Clients, and Higher Fees
Laughing with your prospective clients delivers large doses of dopamine, serotonin and cash, lifting everyone’s moods and your bank balance.*
Laughter also triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that encourages social bonding, boosts trust, and accelerates information sharing. And, as you know, building trust and gathering information are two keys to winning consulting engagements.
Proof: People who watched a funny video in a study revealed 30% more personal information than those who watched a serious video.
More proof: In an oft-cited, but impossible to find study by O’Quinn and Aronoff, participants negotiated an expensive purchase. Sellers who jokingly included “my pet frog” in the final offer received an 18% jump in value compared to participants who didn’t hop on the humor approach.
Remember also that clients who laugh with you are more fun to collaborate with, make your days go faster and improve your mood outside of work hours.
5 Steps to Being a Funnier Consulting Firm
What’s your daily count of chortling, chuckling, thigh-slapping and holding your sides because they hurt (from laughing, not gas or appendicitis)? If it’s below three, you need practice.
As part of your daily ritual, visit sources that activate your laugh reflex. You can turn to funny videos, comedy routines, emails from your hysterical friend Sandy, or anything else that tickles your funny bone.
Prepare Your Humor in Advance
Humor needn’t be spontaneous. Stand up comics polish their routines over months or years, then trot out the exact same jokes every performance.
For instance, when asking the Heart Attack Question to establish a prospect’s budget, I always explain, “I’ve found that giving my clients cardiac arrest is bad for business.” Not the funniest line in the world, but prospects always laugh.
Everyone in your consulting firm should develop at least a handful of reliable, laugh-inducing lines they can bust out to lighten the mood with clients.
Be Self-Deprecating… Confidently
Make fun of yourself and your consulting firm. That behavior humanizes you, makes you appear more self-assured and can defuse tension.
First, though, you have to firmly embrace confidence in yourself and your consulting firm. If you’re feeling inferior (or you believe your prospect views you as inferior), then your self-deprecation may reinforce that unhelpful perspective and cost your business.
Be You, Only Funnier. But Still You
You’re not Jerry Seinfeld. If you were, you wouldn’t be reading this article. Don’t try to be him. Or anyone else, for that matter—even a very funny consultant whom you admire. Trying to be someone else who’s funny isn’t authentic and doesn’t work.
Just be you. Unless you’re mean. Then be someone else.
Engage Your Clients
Share the fun with your consulting firm’s clients. Trade one-liners with them.
Definitely laugh at your clients’ jokes, even if they’re only modestly funny—you’ll find yourself laughing at the fact that you’re laughing.
And adopt the golden rule of improv humor: whatever (attempt at humor) your client makes, go with it and build on it. Don’t contradict it.
Be Mindful of Cultural Differences
Not every joke, or even every type of humor, works well in every culture. If your consulting firm’s work crosses multiple languages and countries, solicit feedback from native language speakers on whether your intended joke will fall flat. (Or rise bumpy?)
Never Disparage or Belittle Another Person
You may be the butt of your own humor. Everyone else, including teammates, is off limits when you’re talking with a consulting client or prospect.
Use Humor in Moderate Doses
Your goal is to build trust, enjoy your work and win clients. Your goal is not to undermine your professionalism or look like a clown.
Two funny lines during a presentation lifts the mood. Two funny lines on every page of the presentation strips away all the value of your work.
Don’t Make Light of Someone’s Serious Situation
Your consulting firm’s prospect may be dealing with financial stress, career risk or some other troubling problem. Those should not be the target for your humor, else you’ll be perceived as insensitive, lose the consulting project and jeopardize relationships.
Be Wary of Sarcasm
Sarcasm can be funny. However, it’s notoriously difficult to communicate in writing and misinterpreted sarcasm can confuse your clients and damage your relationships.
Therefore, if you’re naturally sarcastic, save your humor for times when you’re voice-to-voice with your consulting clients.
Don’t Self-Deprecate an Essential Skill Set
While self-deprecating humor is good (see above); you’ll undermine your consulting firm’s position if you make light of essential attributes.
For instance, you won’t improve your consulting firm’s win rate with statements like, “Our work is like tax refund checks—you always wait longer than you’d like and the benefits are less than you expected (ho ho ho).”
Do you employ humor in your consulting? Share a comment below. Or a joke. Or type in something serious. Your comment doesn’t have to be clever—that’s the whole point. Just join the conversation.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.